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Edited by R. Wuhrer and M. Cortie

Institute of Materials Engineering Australasia Ltd


M. Farhani1, A. Amadeh1, H. Kashani1 and A. Saeed-Akbari2*

Department of Metallurgy and Materials Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Tehran University.

Faculty of Georesources and Materials Engineering, RWTH Aachen University, Germany
*Corresponding Author: Alireza Saeed-Akbari, Rudolfstrae 27, 52070, Aachen, Germany.
Tel: (+49241) 9976908
During hot working processes, due to the simultaneous presence of high temperature and high stress, the relevant dies
are under a variety of failure mechanisms. The predominant mechanism depends on the process and its parameters;
however various wear mechanisms are known to be of the most important die failure mechanisms. Surface engineering
techniques are used to combat wear. In the current study, the hardfacing of a hot forging steel die (H11) by a Cobaltbased super alloy (Stellite 21), was used to study the improvement of wear resistance and the lifetime of the die.
Initially some testing blocks of the H11 steel were prepared and then heat treated as of the considered dies. Then the
hardfacing process by the TIG method was performed on the testing blocks. Finally, the testing blocks properties,
before and after the pin-on-disk wear experiments, was studied using the optical microscopy and hardness testing. Wear
tests were performed at three different temperatures: room temperature, 400 and 550 C. After evaluating of the
experimental results, a sample die was hardfaced and practiced in service and its dimensions were regularly controlled
during service. After a rather long working time, this was brought out of service. The metallographic and hardness
testing samples were prepared from the sample die. Comparing the results of the hardfaced and H11 dies and samples,
indicated that, the increasing of the high temperature hardness due to the formation of a hard and resistant layer on the
surface of hard-faced die, results in the substantial improvement in its wear resistance and lifetime.

Hot forging is one of the oldest metal-forming
processes used in the production of the critical parts for
various industrial purposes. As a process, forging can
be characterized by good mechanical properties of the
workpiece, a short production time, high productivity
and optimal material utilization. These advantages are
achieved normally for rather large production
quantities, because of the high costs of tooling as well
as the long set-up times for production line [1]. The
dies lifetime is a very important factor determining
production cost and rate [2, 3]. Thus, optimizing dies to
achieve longer lifetime and cheaper production cost is
always desirable in these industries.

Figure 1. Modes of damage and their positions in die

cavity at which each mode is likely to occur [1].

Hot working tools undergo severe thermal and

mechanical shocks during each blow. During the actual
hot forging process, the dies surface reaches
temperature range of 700-800C [2]. Simultaneous
presence of high temperature and high stress results in
various die failure mechanisms. Damage of die surface
can arise owing to wear, plastic deformation, thermal
fatigue and mechanical fatigue [2]. Among these,
various wear mechanisms are involved in warm and
hot forging processes. It is reported that wear is
responsible of approximately 70% of die damage and
failure [3-6]. However, the major wear mechanism
differs from one situation to another. Figure 1 shows
the principal modes of die damages and also indicates
the positions in a tool cavity where each type of failure
is most likely to occur [1].

However, there is almost no single material which can

encounter all the mentioned wear mechanisms. Even if
a material is selected which can withstand more than
one of the factors causing wear, making a tool by
means of this material is not necessarily economic.
Therefore, the preferred strategy is to choose a cheaper
material and to cover its critical sections with a
material having superior properties. In this regard,
various surface engineering techniques are widely
Hard-facing is a weld diffusion process that produces
deposits that are metallurgically bonded to substrate. It
is now being used increasingly often as an inexpensive
means for depositing a hard layer on die surfaces. It

also can be used to repair and dimensional restoration

of dies [7].

Wear tests were performed at three temperatures; room

temperature, 400 and 550 C. Invariable parameters for
each wear test involved: sliding speed of 0.4 m/s,
normal load of 48 N and total sliding distance of
1000 m. Prior to and after each experiment, pins were
ultrasonically cleaned and weighed after drying. Then
the weight loss due to wear was measured. Then, the
pins were cut along their cylindrical axis and prepared
for metallographic and microhardness experiments. In
the current study, all of the microhardness tests were
performed by means of a knoop indenter and under a
200gr load.

Cobalt-base super alloys are most common hardfacing

alloys. Many of them are derived from the Co-Cr-W
and Co-Cr-Mo ternaries. Following the success of
Cobalt-base tool materials during the World War I,
they were then used in the form of weld overlays to
protect surfaces from wear since 1922. Low carbon
cobalt-base super alloys are employed to combat wear
at high temperature services [8]. These alloys have low
stacking fault energies and therefore high density of
stacking faults and partial dislocations [9]. Solid
solution hardening by tungsten and chromium,
dislocation-dislocation interactions and impenetrable
particle hardening due to metal-carbides are
responsible for noticeable hardness in these alloys [10].

Table 2. TIG hardfacing parameters

Among these alloys, Stellite 21 alloy has been

successfully utilized for many years, since 1940s, in
the variety of applications, and is still in use, but
predominantly as a wear resistant alloy [8]. Carbides
observed in this alloy are mostly of the Chromium-rich
M23C6 type [10, 11]. These carbides can be observed at
above 500C and precipitate in particular on
deformation bands and stacking faults [9]. With
increasing temperature and deformation, the density of
stacking fault, dislocations and deformation as well as
volume fraction of carbides increases, thus this alloy
exhibits good high temperature hardness [9]. It is also
well accepted that cobalt-base super alloys are resistant
to deformation at temperature range of 500-900C [10].



12 V,
100 A

370 C

1.2 m/s

560 C





250-320 C

1050 C


Press type

Press capacity


620 tons


During service, dimensions of the die were controlled

at some stages, like other ordinary dies. After a
considerably long period (about 16000 blows) the die
was took out of service and specimens were cut from it
for metallographic and microhardness experiments.


3.1 Test Blocks
3.1.1 Weld overlay microstructure
Microstructure of hardfacing weld overlay is shown in
figure 2. Dendritic structure and interdendritic carbides
can be seen in this micrograph. EDS analysis indicated
that interdendritic regions mostly include M23C6 type
carbides and a supersaturated content of Cr and Mo.
These carbides have formed during solidification of the
weld layer. Since solidification speed during welding is
very high, the matrix is a supersaturated solid solution
of alloying elements (especially Cr and Mo) in Co.

Table 1. Composition of materials used



Table 3. Working conditions of the die

Since the final purpose of this study was the

improvement of the wear resistance of a hot forging die
made from H11 hot working tool steel, two test block
of the same material were prepared. These test blocks
were heat treated as for the die and finally a tempered
martensitic microstructure achieved. Then, one of them
was hardfaced through TIG welding with Stellite 21
rods. The composition of test blocks and the weld rods
are shown in table 1. Table 2 shows hardfacing
parameters. Then, specimens for metallographic,
hardness and wear tests were cut and machined from
the experimental blocks. Wear tests were performed
using a pin-on-disk method. The disks were made from
a T2 high speed steel (table2). These disks were heat
treated to achieve a hardness of 64 HRC. Then the
surface of the pins and disks were machined to reach a
similar condition for all the experiments.



According to the results of these experiments, one

practical die was hardfaced and put in service. Table 3
shows working conditions of the die.



Voltage &

Composition (wt %)
C 0.38%, Cr 5%, Mo 1.5%, V .5%, Fe
C 0.9%, Cr 4.5%, W 18%, V 2%, Fe bal.

C 0.25%, Cr 27%, Ni 2.5% Mo 5.5%,

Co bal.
* Weld rod; AWS ERCoCr-E, 3.2 mm in diameter
Stellite 21*


Figure 2. Weld overlay microstructure before the wear

Figure 3. Microstructure of hardfaced pins after the

wear test at: a) room temperature and b) 550C.

Microstructures of the wear test pins after the

experiment are shown in figure 3. As can be seen, there
is not considerable difference between these
microstructures and that of weld layer before the tests;
it includes dendrites and primary carbides. It seems that
even at 550C the test duration (about 41 minutes) was
not enough for considerable precipitation of carbides.

Microhardness (HV)


3.1.2 Hardness


The macrohardness of H11 test block after the heat

treatment was 530 HV. Hardness profile in the weld
overlay of the hardfaced test block (before wear tests)
is shown in figure 4. The hardness of the weld overlay
was at the same level at every depth from the surface.
The hardness profiles after the wear tests are shown in
figure 5. The hardness of the weld overlay increases
near the surface. By increasing the wear test
temperature, the hardness increment increases. H11
(non-hardfaced) pin shows no considerable change in
hardness after room temperature wear test, but after
wear test at 550C, the macrohardness of the pin
decreased to 460 HV.

Distance from Surface (mm)

Figure 4. Microhardness profile in weld overlay before

the wear tests.
Microhardness (HV)










Distance from Surface (mm)

Microhardness (HV)







Distance from Surface (mm)

Figure 5. Microhardness profiles in hardfaced pins
after the wear test at: a) room temperature and b)

room temperature. Furthermore, due to the oxidation

resistant nature of the cobalt-base superalloys, no
oxidation can occur. Thus, no considerable variation
occurred in wear resistance. At 550C a surface layer
with a high hardness of about 600 HV is formed.
Deformation of the surface layer and work hardening
are responsible for this increase in hardness.

3.1.3 Wear Test

Wear test results are shown in figure 6. At room
temperature, H11 pin shows a better resistance (lower
weight loss) to wear than hardfaced pin. At 400C wear
resistance of the H11 pin decreases considerably while
the wear resistance of hardfaced pin had no
considerable change. At 550C, the wear resistance of
both pins increases compared to 400C and the
hardfaced pin shows a better resistance. Comparing
room temperature and 550C results, the wear
resistance of the H11 pin shows a rise by increasing
temperature, while that of the hardfaced one is more
satisfying at higher temperature.

According to these results, it seems that higher

deformation on the surface and higher temperature, can
lead into a better wear resistance in hardfaced
specimens. Therefore, a single die was hardfaced and
put in service.


H11 pins
Hardfaced pins

Weight Loss (mg)







Wear Test Temperature (C)

Figure 7. Micrograph from H11 die surface after


Figure 6. Wear rate (weight loss) results.

3.2 Discussion on the Results of the Test Blocks

3.3 Dies

In case of H11 pins, at 400C, the decrease in the wear

resistance relative to room temperature test can be due
to the decrease in hardness and strength at higher
temperatures. Transformation of surface layers to a
more tempered structure causes a considerable
decrease in the hardness and wear resistance.
Moreover, formation of localized metallic oxides on
the surface and their removal during the test, result in a
more weight loss and lower wear resistance in H11 pin.
It should be noted that localized and scattered oxide
spots act with respect to a mechanism called oxidationscarpe-reoxidation and cause a decrease in the wear
resistance. On the other hand, continuous oxide layers
can act as a ceramic coating on the surface and can
protect it against wear, providing that the sublayers
have enough strength. The localized oxide spots form
in the hot spots of the surface due to friction. At low
ambient temperatures these oxides are discontinuous
and scattered, but at some higher ambient temperatures
these oxides can coalescence and form a continuous
coating. After the formation of this layer, the wear
reaches a steady state before which the wear resistance
is relatively low. The formation of this continuous
oxide layer on the surface after a while, leads into the
increase of the wear resistance at 550C in comparison
with 400C.

3.3.1 H11 die Metallography
Microstructure of a H11 die after its service is shown
in figure 7. White layer on the surface (left) is a
mixture of martensite and retained austenite. The dark
layer beneath, is a mixture of ferrite and carbides.
Figure 8 shows a micrograph of this layer at higher
magnification. As can be seen, it includes fine
spherical carbides in ferrite matrix. The final sublayer
(at right) is the original tempered martensite.
According to this micrograph, it is evident that the die
surface reaches to a high temperature enough for the
austenitization of the surface layer. This austenite has
been quenched by the lubricant and has formed the
mentioned martensite. This transformation should be
repeated at every blow. The heat diffusion to the next
layer was not enough for austenitization. Nevertheless,
during the total time of service, it was enough for
annealing this layer even to spherical carbides. Thus, a
very hard surface layer (probably fully martensitic at
the surface) and a very low-hardness layer just beneath
it, has been formed in H11 die. Moreover, the
formation of a brittle oxide layer on the surface is

In case of hardfaced pins, no considerable variation in

hardness is observed at 400C in comparison with

Figure 8. Microstructure of the sublayer beneath the

white surface layer (figure 7).

Figure 9. Surface cracks in H11 die after service: a)
propagation; b) coalescence and c) propagation parallel
to the surface.

The die surface had too many cracks which have

shown partly in figure 9. These cracks are formed
because of the thermal and mechanical shocks as well
as stresses due to the transformation. Propagation of
these cracks in soft (ductile) sublayers could be the
result of either thermal or mechanical fatigue. These
cracks join each other at the sublayers or propagate
parallel to the surface, and lead into the removal of
large particles from the surface. Hardness
The hardness profile from the surface to the depth of an
H11 die is shown in figure 10. As can be seen, a very
hard layer has been formed at the surface, and just
beneath of this layer, the hardness falls into a very low
level. Retained austenite and annealed structure of the
sublayers are responsible for this low hardness. At
more depths from the surface, the hardness rises to its
primal level.

Figure 10. Microhardness profile in the H11 die after





216 Hardness
The hardness profile for the hardfaced die after the
service is shown in figure 13. The hardness of the
surface layer is high because of the mentioned
recrystallized structure and carbides precipitation on
the grains internal defects. The main difference with
that of the H11 die is the absence of the soft sublayer
beneath the hard surface layer.
3.3.3 Comparison of the dies performance
Dimensions of both dies were controlled during the
service. Results of these controls are shown in figure
14. The hardfaced die has lost only about 0.25 mm of
its dimensions after about 16000 blows, while the H11
die has lost about 2.25 mm of its dimensions after
about 4000 blows.

Figure 11. Microstructure of the hard-faced die after
service: a) far from the surface and b) near the surface.
3.3.2 Hardfaced die


Microhardness (HV) Metallography
The microstructure of two different regions of the weld
overlay is shown in figure 11. As can be seen, far from
the surface, the structure contains dendrites, primary
carbides, some precipitated carbides on the grain
boundaries. But close to the die surface, a
recrystallized structure including the precipitated
carbides in regular lines inside the grains and grain
boundaries, and primary carbides could be
distinguished. This indicates that the deformation at a
sufficiently high temperature for recrystallization has
occurred. Regular lines are the stacking faults or other
planar defects in the crystal structure which are
decorated by the carbides precipitation. The arrow on
the micrograph shows a thermal twin. Determining the
defects type is beyond our discussions in the current


Distance from Surface (mm)

Figure 13. Microhardness profile in the hardfaced die

after the service.

Dimension Loss (mm)


Surface cracks were observed in the hardfaced die,

although with a lower frequency as of the H11 die.
Figure 12 shows a crack propagating along
interdendritic regions.

Hardfaced Die

H11 Die








Number of blows

Figure 14. The dies loss of dimension during the


3.4 Discussion on the results of the dies

According to the results for the H11 die, the hard
surface layer formed during its work, breaks out, as a
result of a weak support of the very soft sublayer
beneath it, and is then removed from the surface. The
formation repeating cycle of this hard layer and its
break-out and removal cause a severe mass removal
and dimension loss in the H11 die. Additionally, the
initiation and propagation of the cracks due to the
thermal and mechanical shocks as well as the

Figure 12- A surface crack in the hardfaced die after

the service.

transformation stresses result in the removal of

relatively large particles from the die surface.
Furthermore, the oxidation of the surface can occur and
leads into a more mass removal; however, the
ultrasonic cleaning of the specimens in the current
study made the detection of the oxide particles almost

In case of the hardfaced die, oxidation resistant nature

of the weld overlay prevents the oxidation based wear
mechanisms to be occurred. As a result of deformation,
work hardening, recrystallization of surface layer, and
precipitation of carbides on defects inside grains, a
hard surface layer forms. This layer has the strong
support of a tough sublayer and does not break out
easily. Thus, this hard layer can act as a protective
coating against wear.

The authors wish to thank MOHAM Industries for their
kind cooperation and supports.

The frequency the surface cracks in the hardfaced die

was very low in comparison with the H11 die. This
could be the result of superior fatigue properties of the
Stellite 21 in comparison with the H11 steel.


J. Kohopo, H. Hakonen and S. Kivivuori, Wear,

1989, Vol. 130, pp 103-112.
2. K. Venkatesen and C. Subramanian, Wear, 1997,
Vol. 203-204, pp 129-138.
3. K. Venkatesen and C. Subramanian, Materials &
Design, 1995, Vol. 16, pp 289-294.
4. R. S. Lee, J. L. Jou, J. Mat. Proc. Tech., 2003, Vol.
140, pp 43-48.
5. J. H. Kang, I. W. Park, J. S. Jae and S. S. Kang, J.
Mat. Proc. Tech., 1999, Vol. 94, pp 183-188.
6. C. Bournicon, Trait. Therm. (France), 1991,
Vol. 246, pp 70-77.
7. Surface Engineering of tool and die steels, ASM
Specialty Handbook: "Tool Materials", J. R.
Davies, Ed., ASM international, 1995, pp 383-389.
8. Cobalt-base Alloys, ASM Specialty Handbook:
"Nickel, Cobalt and their alloys", J. R. Davies, Ed.,
ASM International, 2000, pp 362-370.
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Mat. Sci. Eng., 1993, Vol. A169, pp 85-92.
10. J. L. de Mol van Otterloo and J. Th. M. De
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ASM International, 2001, pp 540-549.

The results of this study can be summarized as follow:

wear mechanisms during the pin-on-disk

experiment and the real industrial usage of the
hot forging dies. Nevertheless, the wear
resistance trends in pin-on-disk wear tests
demonstrate an acceptable consistency with
the industrial experiments.
Overall, the lifetime of the H11 hot forging
dies could be substantially increased via
hardfacing by a Stellite 21cobalt-base

Wear is one of the most important failure

mechanisms in the H11 hot forging dies. The
formation cycle of a hard surface layer which
has a weak support of a soft sublayer, and its
break out and removal, leads into a severe
wear and dimension loss in some of the hot
forging dies.
Another wear mechanism for these dies could
be the cracks propagation and their
coalescence under the surface and thus,
removal of rather large particles.
In case of hardfacing with Stellite 21
superalloy, a hard surface layer forms on the
surface, as a result of deformation,
recrystallization and carbides precipitation on
crystal defects inside the grains. This hard
surface layer has the good support of a tough
sublayer, and creates a protective coating
against wear on the die surface.
Due to absence of cyclic thermal or
mechanical shocks in pin-on-disk wear
experiments, there is a difference between the